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How I Started Out – My First Year Selling On Amazon

One thing I find frustrating with following others who’ve succeeded, is not knowing enough about how they started out initially.  It’s inspiring to see their success, but I often find myself wanting to dig deeper to learn more about the early stages of their journey.Create a Dynamic Name Tag | Name Tag Creator copy

This blog has been an ongoing documentary of my own growth, however I thought it might be helpful to do a post summarizing my journey as an Amazon seller, which began in December of 2014.

AmazonServices_UKTI_FBA_381x260._CB374948729_When I first heard about Amazon FBA, I became very excited. But I wanted proof of concept that this business could really make money.  So I went around my house and found enough used books to fill a small box and sent them to Amazon. I ended up making about $300. That was all the proof I needed and I was sold! 

DISCLAIMER: I receive compensation in the form of an affiliate commission for the products linked below.

I wanted to learn as much as possible about this business and after much research, decided on the Proven Amazon Course.  And wow, it proved to be an awesome resource, especially their large Facebook community of like-minded sellers.  I still reference the course today as they’re continually adding new content.

My first foray into sourcing was similar to most new sellers: Retail Arbitrage. I went out and began scanning items on clearance at local retail stores with my phone and the Amazon Seller App. I didn’t have much luck at first, but after a few days I was able to find plenty of used textbooks(with huge profits) at local thrift stores.  I was also able to find several profitable products at a few local retailers.   I then boxed it up and sent it in to Amazon Canada.  With this inventory, I sold about $1,500 in my first real “month” of selling on Amazon.

I expanded my sourcing further to AliExpress and found a few products, which I went on to create my own “white label” brand with.  I was paying $0.60 per item and selling on Amazon for $19.99 ea on Amazon Canada.   I basically copied listings of other similar products and duplicated the keywords, while refining the description and including better pictures. I think I sold somewhere in the range of $2,000 worth of these before sales dried up to other generic versions selling for far less, direct from China.  I didn’t really fully know what I was doing, but it worked initially and gave me capital.  It was as simple as ordering stuff from china, paying with my credit card, having the stuff shipped to my house where I labelled, boxed up and sent to Amazon!

UnknownIn my 3rd month of selling on Amazon, I expanded into the US onto Amazon.com.  I found a way to get products from Canada to the US using a freight forwarding company.  Sales in the US were way better and I sold about $5,600 by the end of my third month.   I expanded my sourcing at this time into online arbitrage as well.  A really handy chrome plug-in called Jungle Scout was a massive game changer for me.

But I realized that in order to grow my sales further, I’d need more reliable sources of replenishable inventory.  From what I’d read, this meant securing some wholesale accounts.

So on my 4th month of selling on Amazon, I flew to Las Vegas and attended the ASD trade show.  It was huge, and a really eye opening experience for me.  From this show, I was able to secure several wholesale accounts and I finally felt like I had a real Amazon business.2015-03-01 06.46.47

My next move was registering with a prep and ship company and paying someone to share their VA’s(Virtual Assistant: A remote worker, typically in the Philippines) online arbitrage finds.  This freed up a lot of my time and had the added benefit of teaching me how to source and what stores to source from. I also learned how to work with a VA, and went on to train several of my own.

My business was really starting to grow by my 5th month, and I hit my highest one-day sales ever of $540!

By the end of my 6th month, I sold just shy of $10,000 and began to officially make a full time living from selling on Amazon. This was really exciting and I felt like I’d really built something sustainable.

During the 7th month, I’d reached another milestone: My best one day sales yet of over $1,100!!! At this point, I was about 40% wholesale, 50% Online Arbitrage (US Based) and 10% Used Textbooks.  I sold just shy of $12,000 that month, while spending about 80% less time working than prior months due to outsourcing.

Sales continued to grow, and I worked on average about 20 hours a week in the Amazon business.  I started a Facebook Group to build a community of like-minded Amazon sellers, especially Canadians like myself and continued to blog about my journey.

christmasMy first Q4 was both exciting and frustrating at the same time. I went as deep as I could, sourcing from wholesalers, physical retailers, and online arbitrage in both the US and Canada.  The problem I ran into was that I couldn’t get inventory in to Amazon fast enough!  Retailers took longer to ship.  As did wholesalers.  My Prep and ship company was backlogged and took up to a week to turn deliveries around. UPS also took longer than usual to deliver my packages to FBA.  And finally, Amazon was really, really slow to receive product when it finally arrived and shuffled my inventory all over the country!

I figure I probably lost about $50,000 in potential Q4 sales due to delays in getting my inventory live.  I only had so much capital to invest and I needed to rotate that inventory to buy more.  The challenge was, the closer it got to Christmas, the busier and slower everything became.

TIP: Send as much as you can in to Amazon prior to Mid-November if you can. And build a nest egg of capital (or inventory) all year put aside for Q4 spending.

Overall, my Q4 sales were my best months ever on Amazon and I sold over 100% of what I’d sold Jan-Sep in those 3 months alone!

But January was a HORRIBLE month sales wise for me though, since I’d sold out of almost all of my inventory by the end of December, online arbitrage deals were far and few between, and my wholesalers were closed and/or backlogged.  So my sales sucked during January and I was left sitting on a pile of cash that I couldn’t spend on inventory fast enough.

February was a bit better as inventory started to go live, but I was hit with several product returns that ate into my profits a bit. They call it return-uary for a reason, as people return unwanted gifts to Amazon and the refunds start to trickle in.

logo3Today my Amazon business continues to grow. I plan to continue to expand my information business, writing eBooks and creating content to help others learn how to sell on Amazon and other eCommerce platforms.

In summary, I suggest the following steps for starting out selling on Amazon.

  1. Get the Proven Amazon Course – It’s a MUST for all new sellers and I can’t recommend it enough.  It’s seriously the best investment you’ll make in your business starting out.
  2. If you’re Canadian, get a copy of my eBook How to Sell on Amazon.com from Canada – It’ll fast track your learning curve and save you potentially hundreds of dollars and countless headaches
  3. Download the Amazon Seller App for your smart phone
  4. Start scanning used books you have sitting around your house with the above app and send them in to Amazon to make your first profit
  5. Go out to local retailers and begin scanning items in the clearance sections.  Also go to Thrift stores and scan used textbooks, non-fiction books and science fiction categories.  These can yield huge profits.
  6. Start sourcing online at major retailers for inventory to sell on Amazon.
  7. To speed up the above, I’d suggest Jungle Scout – It’s a massive time saver and gives you at a glance the estimated number of sales per month for each item (very handy to know)
  8. Get the eBook and video course, How to Keepa Camel to learn how to read Keepa/Camel charts to make solid buying decisions and avoid prices tanking  – This is a very worthwhile investment
  9. Get a Prep and Ship company set up.  There’s a great Facebook group that can help you find one here
  10. Use QuickBooks Online for your bookkeeping –  Start early and update often.  Amazon involves a lot of receipts and transactions and you’ll want to stay on top of this
  11. Consider adding some wholesale lines.  I have a Wholesale Mastermind along with an eBook, The Wholesale Truth, that’s written for beginners new to working with wholesalers.  It’s based on my own experiences and trial and error in securing wholesale lines on my own

Thanks so much for being part of my journey and for also including me in yours.

All the best,

Duncan

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DISCLOSURE: I receive compensation from companies whose products and services I review and promote in this post and on this site. I test each product and service thoroughly and only promote the very best to our community.

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This Post Has One Comment
  1. Hello, Duncand, it’s very helpful the information you’re sharing. I’m going to start directly in the US market. After some specific courses about Amazon FBA and many hours of research, I finally found some really good products to sell. I’m worried if I should start with “white label” from the beginning or if this could be very risky.

    On the other hand, according to the tip that you mention in your post, we should make a major order at Mid-November. I want to start with about 100 units while I test the market … should I buy much more? What do you think?

    Thanks for your help and keep the good work up.

    Best regards,

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